Section 4. Recommendations for Policy and Legislative Implementation

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This section includes recommendations for policymaker to institute legislative, policy, administrative and budgetary changes that align with and support the implementation of the previous sections of the National Standards. This list of state and federal law and policy recommendations should be used by federal, state and local policymakers to help effect meaningful changes to status offense laws and policies.  These changes can promote early intervention, diversion and increased and coordinated services and support for youth and their families. This section can also be used by policy advocates to support their organizational efforts to change state and federal laws, policies and budgetary schemes to support better outcomes for young people in or at risk of entering the status offense system.  In some instances the policy recommendations below repeat the themes and principles outlined in the previous sections of these Standards, but with a specific focus on guiding law and policy changes. 

Key Principles

State and Local Policymakers and Advocates
State policymakers should develop and implement the following recommended law and policy changes to help divert youth who engage in behaviors labeled status offenses and their families away from the courts.  These change can also help avoid deeper justice system involvement, which research shows is detrimental not only to the young person, and increases the likelihood of recidivism. State policymakers can also incentivize and monitor uniform application of these principles and policies across that state’s various agencies and jurisdictions to ensure fair and equal treatment and opportunities for all youth and families.

"The [National Standards] represent an exhaustive and thoughtful effort by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and allied organizations, and will be of immense help to policy makers and practitioners striving to eliminate the use of detention in status offense cases. These standards are a high quality resource that is long overdue."

Shawn C. Marsh, Ph.D.
Chief Program Officer, Juvenile Law
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Local and municipal policymakers also play a critical role in addressing the below policy priority areas, as they can actively work with their respective state governments to develop and uniformly implement the below recommendations.  In addition, where state-wide action may be slow to take hold, local authorities can take steps in advance of state action to ensure the best outcomes for youth and their families in their communities. 

State and local policymakers and advocates should:

  • Eliminate juvenile court penalties and sanctions for behaviors labeled status offenses and ensure that systems are accurately responding to behaviors as either episodes of normal adolescent behavior, or critical unmet youth and family needs that are best resolved through non-judicial interventions and supports (Section 4.1)
  • Support an infrastructure of community-based and child and family serving programs and systems to ensure direct youth and family access to a seamless, comprehensive and non-judicial continuum of care that is empowered and resourced to respond to behaviors that might otherwise be labeled as status offenses (Section 4.2)
  • In those limited circumstances where court involvement is necessary, ensure court mechanisms are in place that allow the appropriate court division to effectively serve the needs of the youth and family without inappropriate use or risk of more punitive outcomes for the child and family (Section 4.3)
  • Prohibit schools from referring youth who engage in status offense behaviors to court unless and until the school has made all reasonable efforts to avoid court involvement (Section 4.4)
  • Prohibit parents/caregivers from referring youth who engage in status offense behaviors to the juvenile court until the family has first sought and meaningfully engaged non-judicial interventions (Section 4.5)
  • Promote coordinated, blended or braided public funding streams that create a seamless, comprehensive community-based continuum of care for youth and families (Section 4.6)
  • Enact laws that ensure the right to counsel for youth who come into contact with the juvenile court for a status offense by not allowing youth to waive their right to counsel or only allowing waiver if: (1) it is on the record, (2) the court has fully inquired into the child’s understanding and capacity, and (3) the waiver occurs in the presence of and in consultation with an attorney (Section 4.7)
  • Prohibit the use of locked confinement for youth petitioned to court for a status offense (Section 4.8)
  • Mandate meaningful efforts to engage youth and families in all aspects of case planning, service delivery, court proceedings and disposition strategies (Section 4.9)


Federal Policymakers and Advocates
Federal policymakers should support federal programs that promote and incentivize state and local reforms that increase services to families and youth in need, reduce recidivism and prevent at-risk young people from crossing over into the delinquency system.  Appropriate funding and the provision of training and technical assistance will help states adopt best practices.  Federal legislative and administrative policies that align with the principles and policies proposed by the National Status Offense Standards will help achieve these goals. 

Federal policymakers and advocates should:

  • Amend the JJDPA to prohibit the use of the valid court order (VCO) exception to securely confine youth adjudicated for status offenses (Section 4.10)
  • Strengthen relevant federal agencies to provide research, training and technical assistance to state and local authorities to better assist state status offense system reform efforts (Section 4.11)
  • Create coordinated approaches between federal government agencies and programs that serve youth and families that will help states coordinate, blend or braid federal funding streams to create a seamless, comprehensive and, to the greatest extent possible, non-judicial continuum of care for youth and families (Section 4.12)